After our year end hike to Mt. Apo last year, I took a few months hiatus from hiking. Suddenly, the thought of getting toasted by the sun and tracing new trails no longer did interest me. In short, I got tired of hiking. I mean, what’s there’s more to do? I’ve been to Pulag, Kanlaon, and Apo, what else should I try to prove to myself? If you’re a beginning hiker, don’t get me wrong. Eventually, you’ll reach into a point when the mountains no longer bring you thrill. You’ll soon realize that nobody gets a medal for finishing a number of summits or for arriving at the summit first. When this time comes, take a break. Because after you do, you’ll begin to love the mountains even more.
On a random invite of a Facebook friend, I found myself riding a bus bound for Argao. It was a Saturday morning, and instead of marathoning some Kdrama episodes, I decided to pack my things, wear again my trail shoes, and join a hike to Mt. Lantoy. By eight in the morning, I arrived at the Argao’s Tourism office and met other hikers for the first time. After having been gathered by Charlone, the organizer of the group, we negotiated the fees for the day’s adventure then went to the market to avail some sustenance. We were then sent by the habal-habal driver to the base of Mt. Lantoy where our guide, Kuya Adon, was waiting.
While Lantoy stands only the third highest in the municipality of Argao, Cebu, it’s also one of the most difficult to access because it’s a protected area of Argao, thus settling a permit for a mass climb in the area is quite difficult. Moreover, because of the presence of several cracks nearby, this has not been marketed by the Tourism office. However, because this mountain serves also as laboratory for those studying forestry, this has been frequented by the locals and some students; hence, the same reason why we were permitted to visit Mt. Lantoy.
Given the number of months of hiatus, I had a hard time adjusting to the pacing of the group as soon as we began our hike to Mt. Lantoy. They were even wondering why was I already panting given the major hikes I have attended to. This then hit me. Back then, I treated hiking as a hobby, something that can just be done over the weekend, something than can just be taken for granted. What I have forgotten is that, for the months that I have been into the mountains, my body got attuned to the physical labor exerted upon such task; eventually, such became a lifestyle. As a lifestyle, it should be lived all through the days.
The view at the summit of Mt. Lantoy was astounding. Given the cliff-like edges, we took turns in taking photos; meanwhile, Charlone and Kuya Adon were busy conversing whether we’d visit the nearby cave located few meters from the summit. We then made a quick visit on the cave that they were talking about only to find out a very small crack for an opening. You literally need to tuck your stomach and flex your other body parts to fit it. Sadly, because Hermie was too tall, he decided to stay on the opening and wait for our return. Contrary to its mouth, the inside of the cave was big – not that monstrous though like Calbiga or White Cave. What struck me the most was the amazing rock formation among the stalactite and stalagmite that grew in the area.
After hovering around the summit of Mt. Lantoy we then went back to base of Lantoy and had our lunch. We rested for a bit before we traversed to Bugasok Falls and Agta Cave. If you had been reading this blog for quite sometimes, these two majestic places hold a dear place in my heart as they were part of my initiation climb way back 2014. Standing on top of Bugasok brought so much memories to me. Where did I ever got the courage to jump Bugasok Falls back then? Honestly, I couldn’t find such bravery at that moment.
After taking numerous photos of Bugasok Falls, we then proceeded to the famous Agta Cave located near Mt. Lantoyy. Locally know as Balay sa Agta, this cave was believed to be the home of a gigantic mythical creature – a Philippine version of Big Foot. The cliffs that we had to pass reminded me of those days when I can’t barely look down and watch what’s waiting for me at the bottom. Somehow, tourism brought about the heightened security in going the cave. The paths were stabilized that for me, safety gears would no longer be necessary. Come to think of it, steep and barely passable trails are what major climbs are made of. But of course, safety should be of topmost priority so… of we go with the harness and helmets.
Because of time constraint, I wasn’t able to finish the Agta Cave tour on my first visit. Somehow, this was answered by this second visit. We reached the dead-end of the cave where numerous rock formations can be found. Such beauty reminded me of the exquisiteness of Calbiga’s Langon-Gobingob Cave System. To conclude the day’s adventure, we then headed to our last stop and feasted over the torta and sikwate prepared for us – as part of the tour package.
I’d be forever grateful to Charlone and company (Airine, Claire, Hermie, Kevin, and Witchauz) for the amazing company during our Mt. Lantoy trip. Now I’m beginning to wonder what would have become of me had they not involved me on such activity. Perhaps, there’d be a time when our interest into something would eventually fade; however, what’s dear to you would always find ways to reach you. For me, they were sent by the mountains to remind me that the greatest tragedy in life is not about being left behind but leaving to die what mattered most inside while we live. Sometimes, the best way to appreciate something is to be without it for a while. For a while.